The Challenge of Planning Activities for Teens During this Quarantine

Like in most school systems around the U.S., we are experiencing school closings and lots and lots of time at home. That has left parents all around looking for activities for teens during the coronavirus quarantine, to hopefully make the best of it.  In our own home, we’re trying to turn this from a time of stress and anxiety into one of positive results, and I wanted to share here what we’ve done this week to get through it.

Teen Activities Coronavirus Quarantine

As most of you already know, the challenges with our teens are different than with younger kids. They may be more self sufficient and independent, but they can also lose days on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, and of course Netflix and Disney+.  And while we want them to have some downtime, catch up on their rest, and connect with their friends online, that can’t be the only thing they’re doing for 14 hours a day.

Our biggest worry, for us as parents and for our teens, is losing all the progress they had made in the last year with all their hard work in school, sports training, and work in debate and broadcast journalism.

That got me thinking.  If we had 4 weeks of time at home, wouldn’t it be great to have something better to show for it at the end?

What’s the balance between work and play?

We don’t like micromanaging our teens, and they know how to handle a structured day on their own.  So we sat down and talked through the options.  We came up with a few buckets of things that needed to happen:

  • Personal and free time, which would also include FaceTime with grandparents and other friends out of town that they normally don’t get to see, so it’s become an opportunity to reconnect.
  • Following online learning related to their current classes, whether it’s provided by the school or using Khan Academy or another resource (below)
  • Finding one new thing to learn about, like a new language, or a virtual tour of a park or museum, or a history documentary they haven’t covered before
  • Workouts to stay strong and healthy for their sports, and so that we don’t all go absolutely stir crazy
  • Working on goals related to their own interests, like debate and broadcast journalism, learning to program, and photo editing.

Teen Schedule during Coronavirus

Together we put together a block schedule with time for different activities, which they now have on their phone calendars and can follow along every day. Check out our family’s Quarantine Schedule for Teens, and feel free to use the empty template to make your own and print for reference.

We didn’t want this to be too regimented, so during the breaks they can decide what to do. They can text friends, use Snapchat, watch videos, whatever. As long as their schoolwork, learning activities, workouts, and time for goals happens, they have earned their free time.

Even this type of block schedule may seem like a lot of structure for time at home, but suddenly getting 10 hours of free time, and knowing that this is going to last a while, was too much of a disruption for them and us as working parents. It has been proven that creating structure in your day reduces stress and anxiety, and taking action towards a goal builds confidence. So with these uncertain times, what better way to keep our teens doing great things and feeling good about themselves?

Maybe you haven’t had a chance to put together this type of schedule with your teens before now, so I recommend you involve them in the process of planning out their daily schedule so they remain accountable for the work.

Together you can come up with the balance needed between using the time wisely so they’re not rusty when it’s time to go back to school, and not putting them on a work schedule like an adult.

Time of Opportunity

There are many “out of the box” things can you do with your teen during this time that can help prepare them for when they go back to school, and for the future!

Practice Adulting

How about using this as a time for your teen or tween to practice those life skills that they usually don’t have time to work on, like:

  • cooking a meal
  • ironing clothes
  • making a budget
  • plan a family day out

There are many more great suggestions at Teaching Adulting To a Captive Audience and 45 Things you Should Know How to Do Before College.

Set Weekly Mini-Goals

Your teen can turn this time into an opportunity to take on a project about something that has intrigued them but they haven’t had the time to tackle. With this down time, it’s a great time to practice planning, prioritizing, time management, and working diligently towards a goal.

During this time, could your teen:

  • begin to learn a new language?
  • learn about robotics and programming?
  • plan next year’s college application?
  • start studying for the SAT or ACT?
  • learn to cook a nutritious meal?

Let them choose one thing that intrigues them, that excites them, and also keeps them learning!  And then help them with weekly check-ins on Friday to see how they’re going and encourage them to keep making progress.

Check out our SMART goals worksheets to help you and your teen plan out weekly goals, and some other examples of SMART goals for teens.

Free SMART Goals templates


Online Resources for Learning

Here are additional online learning resources if your teens could use some variety for an hour or two of learning activities per day:

Online Classes

Khan Academy Daily Schedule for School Closures

MIT Free Online Courses for High Schoolers

MIT’s FullSteam Program for STEAM Projects

Arizona State University Courses for High Schoolers

College Courses from Ivy League Schools

Ted Talks for Students

Disney’s Imagineering in a Box

Virtual Tours and Topic-Specific Opportunities

Museums with Virtual Tours

Museum of Modern Art Online Classes

All Things Weather – Facebook Live with Doug Kammerer

Project-Based Learning from A.J. Juliani:

Family Time

If you have more time to spend with your kids, or are looking for activities for the weekend, I wanted to share our article from last summer about keeping teens off electronics. You may not be able to do all the ideas here, but there’s links to additional articles with hundreds of things you could do with your teen indoors at home.

We’ve also had many conversations about the new rules of what can and cannot happen every day, and how we need them to pitch in with patience, positivity, and taking things one day at a time.  If your family needs additional resources to talk to teens about coronavirus, check out Harvard’s article.

Let’s Help Each Other Out!

It’s bound to be a trying time for all over the next few weeks. Join our Facebook group Parenting Busy Teens, and let us help you with answers to any questions or challenges you may be having. We hope to be a resource for you and your teens, by providing ideas and encouragement, and celebrating success together!


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Activities for Teens during the Coronavirus Quarantine


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